Trojans’ near stunner in Folsom ends in heartbreak
Oak Ridge to take on Burbank in first round
FOLSOM — Host Folsom turned to its potent offense for two touchdowns in the final six minutes Friday, erasing a 10-point deficit, to overcome upset-minded Oak Ridge 35-31 to close the Delta River League regular season.
Trojan coach Eric Cavaliere’s pre-game prediction that “the team that punted the least would win” rang true as Oak Ridge, unable to move offensively in the fourth quarter, punted four times and the Bulldogs used two of the punts to score and one to run out the clock.
Troy’s disappointment following their valiant effort was clear. During the team’s customary singing of the school’s rally song, players gazed downward and barely made it through.
Though Oak Ridge lost the game, the Trojans answered their current quarterback struggles as sophomore Jacob Sipes made his first varsity start and performed like a seasoned veteran, completing 15-of-24 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. His highlight was a perfect timing-throw to receiver Dylan Collie who beat the cornerback with a leaping 9-yard grab in the corner of the end zone.
“The offense improved so much since last week and had real good rhythm tonight. We threw the ball and got behind a sophomore quarterback who was mature beyond his years. A lot of credit goes to coach (Jeff) Lewallen who put Jacob in situations he could be successful — I can’t wait to see what he (Sipes) does next week,” Cavaliere said.
Next week is the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and the Trojans’ setback cost them a home game. Seeded 13th, Oak Ridge is on the road at No. 4 Burbank. Still, the vibe from giving defending state champion Folsom all it could handle resonated well in Friday’s aftermath — at least to Cavaliere and his staff.
“We got better tonight and that’s what we needed to do. This is a great game for us going into the playoffs where we expect to do well,” Cavaliere said.
For the second week in a row, Oak Ridge (6-4, 2-3) intercepted four passes. The turnovers helped curb the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense led by quarterback Tanner Trosin (33-of-48, 404 yards) and wide receiver J’Juan Muldrow. If Trosin (19 rushes, 88 yards) wasn’t throwing he was running.
Bobby Gatta had three of the interceptions, including one early in the fourth that he snatched at the 13 and out-ran the field for an 87-yard touchdown return to put Troy ahead 31-21 with 10:57 left.
“It was an overthrow that slipped through the receiver’s hands and I took it home — all green from there,” said Gatta, whose first pick set up Jon David Smith’s 27-yard field goal to open the scoring. “We studied a lot of film, were very well prepared and knew what they would run. Unfortunately they love screens (passes) and that was the ones we couldn’t stop.”
Folsom (8-2, 4-1) killed Oak Ridge with yards after the catch, especially Muldrow, who scored the game-winning touchdown on a screen he ran for 44 yards. Muldrow finished with 16 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns.
“Everything was underneath. They’re real smart getting players into open spaces,” Cavaliere said. “They’re very deserving of their high ranking — talented, well-coached, run great routes — that’s why they’re so successful.”
While Trosin came in having thrown for over 3,300 yards and 31 touchdowns, Sipes’ was 2-of-3 and a touchdown in his only series. Numbers aside, Sipes, with aid from the defense, nearly pulled out the win in his first extended playing time at the varsity level.
“I was excited but really nervous at the start but the team got me rolling and that gave me a lot of confidence,” Sipes said. “We read their defense, took what they gave us and were able to move down the field.”
Folsom led 14-3 before Troy mounted a second-quarter comeback. An 11-play, 78-yard drive ended with Preston Dean pushing in from the 3. After Ben Sweet tipped away Trosin’s fourth-down pass in the end zone, Oak Ridge took a 17-14 halftime lead on Sipes’ 10-yard pass to Collie nine seconds before the break. Zack Claiborne ran Trosin down and sacked him to end the first half.
The Trojans took the second-half kickoff and were on the move before fumbling. Sweet returned possession to Oak Ridge with an interception of Trosin that led to Sipes’ aforementioned picture-perfect toss to Collie.
After the ‘Dogs closed to within 24-21, Gatta took his theft the distance to put the Trojans in good shape before Folsom rallied.
Collie, back at his familiar receiver’s position, caught seven passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Lance Berringer had five receptions for 77 yards. Dean rambled for 118 yards on 13 carries.